Then to Now: Taking the Next Steps
Nicole Decsey on how the dance scene has shifted from digital based to in person as the pandemic quiets down, as well as the changes we see in this "new world" we now live in.
In person to virtual. Real people to screens. Sometimes it feels like we have transitioned into a science fiction world straight from a Philip K Dick novel. But no, this is not fiction it is simply where the pandemic has brought us. But maybe it hasn’t all been for not. There have been some amazing things that have sprung up for artists through technology both in the classroom and on the virtual stage.
Classes have become more accessible to everyone. For example, A Dance Way of Life’s editor and my co-writer, Rachel Levitt, was able to get a dance education in Graham from Movement Migration, a dance company based in the USA that hires all their Graham teachers from the Martha Graham company.
During the pandemic, Movement Migration offered a summer intensive that included classes such as Luigi jazz, yoga, ballet, Limón and much more. They achieved such a dedicated following that classes continued to be offered throughout the year, and the company has since gone on to continue performing as things open up.
Kim Jones, the artistic director of Movement Migration, is a wonderful teacher who lights up the virtual room whenever she enters it. Kim made these classes affordable for everyone whilst bringing in world renowned staff to teach. Access to these would just not have been possible pre-pandemic without travelling around the USA, Greece and UK, since she brought teachers from all over into this virtual space This is why virtual teaching may be a blessing in disguise. Obviously dancing at home has its limits, but for those who live far away whether that be out of the city or out of the country it opens doors which otherwise would have been closed.
When I dropped in for a few classes with Movement Migration, I learned Luigi jazz and Taylor for the first time in my dance career and also took some Limón classes. I had not realized how much I had missed the Limón technique until I was in class re-learning how to initiate my movement from my head instead of my pelvis. Each teacher with Movement Migration cared immensely about the students. I always felt like I was seen, and never felt out of place.
What we have lost versus what we have gained. It is a tough balance to find, and sometimes it is hard to see the silver lining in the face of loss.
Losing Lower Ossington Theatre, Dovercourt House, Dancemakers and more was heartbreaking. It is hard to imagine that some dancers will never get the opportunity to take classes at Dovercourt or perform at Dancemakers and Lower Oss. The loss of this rich artistic culture will never truly be mended, but we have also gained a unique way of creating and presenting art that we may never have tapped into if we weren’t forced into it.
In response to the pandemic The Assembly Theatre created a stage behind a window allowing anyone walking down Queen Street West to catch a glimpse or more of the performances. Our art form is usually locked behind closed doors in theatres both large and small where those not part of the community would never know what was happening. But now performance art is taking to the streets as theatre and dance companies start dabbling more in site specific work, something that Frog in Hand a Mississauga based physical theatre company has been doing for a long time. Their show Stories in The Woods in August was a testament to their skill.
Allen and Karen Kaeja have also been making waves throughout the pandemic. Both artists already being extremely versed in film and live performance created their newest work Laneway ART-ery, which is viewable throughout the rest of 2021 and into 2022, combining film with site specific work all accessible by the touch of a button on your phone.
I hope to see more innovations like Assembly Theatre’s and Kaeja d’Dance’s popping up around Toronto and the GTA. There are some other exciting shows coming this month that you won’t want to miss including Looking for The Dance Mikhail Baryshnikov’s photo exhibit, Touch an immersive dance piece involving light and projections by Guillaume Côté’ and Thomas Payette as well as Common Ground Dance Festival by Toes For Dance which will include performances and workshops hosted at Lee Lifeson Art Park. Links to tickets for all these performances can be found at the bottom of this article.
Even as we begin to go back to a comparatively normal way of working, some digital ways of creating art will stay the same. I believe that within a rehearsal process there will now always be some online portion of the work, such as virtual meetings to discuss projects and tasks given online for the creators to develop choreography at home before coming into the studio. There is a convenience to working online that we may not want to give up so soon. We are entering a new era of hybrid creations.
Making long-distance connections. The pandemic, while limiting, has allowed everyone to connect long distance with friends and family. It has allowed artists to connect and work with one another across countries and it has sparked innovations that have allowed art to evolve at an astounding rate.
I recently started to work on a project with my close friend Alexis Gontan who is a filmographer, photographer and physical theatre artist based in the south of France. Rachel was able to hire dancers from the USA to perform in three different Dance : Corps Company Projects. These working relationships would never have been possible without the role technology has been given in the dance community. The loses have been great, and while we cannot forget our history it is also time to move forward and take the next step.
What will your next step be? What do you want to do? Now is the time to take control and make the changes you want to see happen.
Links to works referenced:
Looking for The Dance: https://lighthouseimmersive.com/looking-for-the-dance/
Common Ground Festival: https://www.toesfordance.ca/common-ground
Laneway Art-ery Dances: https://www.kaeja.org/laneway